What Is Hybristophilia?

Hybristophilia is an attraction you feel for dangerous people. While for many they're criminals, for those who suffer from this disorder they are just misunderstood beings who need love.
What Is Hybristophilia?

Last update: 10 June, 2021

The human mind, despite decades of study, remains a great enigma. One of the complex phenomena we can’t get to grips with still is hybristophilia. This is defined as a ‘sexual perversion in which a person has a tendency to develop a sexual and romantic attraction for criminals’.

It occurs to a greater extent in women than in men, who see criminals as misunderstood, sexy and in need of their love. The pattern includes attraction to even the most feared criminals, sentenced for gruesome acts against other women.

What is hybristophilia?

Hybristophilia as paraphilia.
This attraction to criminals is often irrational.

Most concepts about hybristophilia are limited to pointing out that it’s the ‘excitement of having sex with a criminal’. Still, this term that psychologist John Money coined in the 1950s goes even further.

Money’s studies were those that determined that this perversion affects especially heterosexual women, in whom there’s a romantic attraction and sexual arousal about having a violent partner with a criminal record of rape, murder or robbery.

It’s also known as Bonnie & Clyde syndrome, and the lack of studies on hybristophilia makes it difficult to review the number of people who have this tendency. The reason being that it isn’t considered as a disease, but as a sexual preference.

The reason it’s listed as a paraphilia is that its existence endangers people’s physical and mental integrity. More so, because sometimes this attraction could evolve and lead those who have it to commit crimes.

Types of hybristophilia

There are two types of hybristophilia:


Those with passive hybristophilia are only attracted to the criminal in a sexual and romantic way, but won’t participate in his acts. In fact, they tend to think that with their love and company they can rescue him from the life he leads. In the same way, they excuse his behavior and believe that their lover will never harm them.


Aggressive hybristophilia means that the person who suffers from it actively participates in her lover’s criminal acts. They can get involved in attracting victims so that the criminal can quench his thirst for crime, help hide the bodies, or participate directly in the crime (murder, rape or robbery).

This person doesn’t understand that the criminal is manipulating her and she blindly believes in a love that doesn’t exist, because the lover usually has a psychopathic profile. They often seek to be loved and approved by the criminal.

Causes of hybristophilia

The specific causes of hybristophilia are unclear. Everything about this paraphilia is complex and inaccurate. Although, among the possible causes we can find the following:

  • History of abuse. Studies have shown that women who have a history of abuse in their childhood tend to choose sexual and romantic partners with a criminal and aggressive profile. This continues the pattern of abuse.
  • Dark triad. The dark triad of personality refers to a combination of three personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy, which are often attractive to some types of women. Men who develop this triad have a high tendency to become criminals.
  • Social stereotypes. Consciously or not, society imposes stereotypes of how couples should be. One of the most common patterns lies in machismo, where it’s common for the man to dominate in the relationship, to the point of being aggressive. This can often be socially accepted behavior.

Does it have treatment?

Mental therapy and hybristophilia.
Mental therapy isn’t always effective.

Although you might think that hybristophilia can be cured with the support of a mental health professional, the answer is that there’s no clear and definitive treatment that has managed to counteract this paraphilia.

What happens in the particular case of this paraphilia is that, in the first place, it doesn’t appear as a mental disorder in the diagnostic manuals. Because of that, there’s no single line to indicate how it could be treated.

The second has to do with its origin, as it doesn’t have a clear erotic element. It’s rather abstract, and is complex to control in a clinical setting.

According to studies on the treatment of paraphilias, psychotherapeutic interventions based on behavioral and cognitive techniques are useful in some cases. Added to this, the use of hormones and psychotropic medications can be helpful.

One of the things that makes it difficult to extinguish paraphilias is that this behavior is usually learned at a crucial stage of cognitive development. Therefore, multimodal interventions are necessary.

In the case of hybristophilia, the specific treatment to be followed isn’t clear, although masturbation programming techniques could contribute to weakening the association created between pleasure and criminals.

Famous cases of hybristophilia

Famous cases of hybristophilia? Most of us are familiar with some of these cases. Television has been responsible for covering some of the most heinous crimes. That information line has crossed, in some cases, a very fine line between delivering the information and mythologizing the criminal, giving him fame and giving him numerous admirers.

Thus, some of the most famous cases of hybristophilia are the following:

Bonnie & Clyde

Hybristophilia, as we mentioned before, is also known as Bonnie & Clyde syndrome. The reason lies in the way this criminal and toxic love was given.

According to historians, Bonnie didn’t have an easy childhood. She got married for the first time at the age of 16 to a man who ended up in prison on charges of murder. She met Clyde and the love at first sight was mutual.

She left her criminal life as a thief to live as a normal couple, yet she couldn’t hide her criminal nature. After spending a few years in prison for robbery, she got together with her lover and formed the band that made them so infamous. In 1934 they were shot together.

Charles Mason

Mason is another of the most famous criminals in the world. His childhood was always marked by crime. Around 1967, he took advantage of the hippie movement to establish himself as a guru who managed to gain a large number of followers, in particular, women.

The well-known Manson family became popular for the crimes they committed. The most famous and cruel was the murder, by order of Manson, of the model and actress Sharon Tate and her 8-month-old baby. Several members of the work team of the film director Roman Polanski died with her.

Ted Bundy

The impact of Ted Bundy was monumental, his physical attractiveness gained him followers and lovers in droves despite his record of crimes against women. Bundy murdered an unknown number of girls, although he acknowledged 36 homicides.

His popularity was such that he married an admirer whom he met through letters in jail after being convicted.

Had you heard about hybristophilia?

Perhaps you’re familiar with the famous cases we mentioned, but not about their relationship to hybristophilia. As you can see, although it may seem absurd, many women are attracted to men with a criminal profile.

Although there’s a fine line between being attracted to an evil man and being aroused by a delinquent, this seems to be more common than you might think.

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